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Economic Implications of Abuse

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  – Matthew 25:37-38

Domestic violence presents a financial catch-22 for victims and survivors and exemplifies the power money exerts over our lives. One of the major reasons victims remain in abusive relationships is a lack of money for basic living expenses. And survivors who leave face enormous financial challenges to move forward and not return to the relationship.

Access to financial resources will enable victims to escape to safety and encourage them as survivors to overcome the obstacles to recovery. Statistics reveal that many women in abusive relationships have at least one dependent child; no property that is solely theirs; lack access to cash or bank accounts; and may face a decline in living standards for themselves and their children should their partner. Leaving the abuser means they will need money for housing, utilities, food, clothing, household supplies, childcare and healthcare. A single mother with a child would need the equivalent of a $57,000 salary according to Wider Opportunities for Women, an organization that works to build pathways to economic independence for families, women, and girls (wowonline.org).

Abusers are well aware their victims are financially dependent upon them and exploit the dependency to keep women in these relationships. Some of the tactics abusers use include maintaining control of victims earned income or resources received through public assistance or social security; withholding money and/or access to money; forbidding attendance at school; forbidding employment; requiring accountability and justification for all money spent; and withholding debt information for which the victim is responsible for payment. The Office of Domestic Violence in New York State classifies these tactics as economic abuse, a form of domestic violence.

Once a woman leaves an abusive relationship, financial resources and other services are needed to facilitate her physical, psychological, and emotional recovery. However financial education cannot be overlooked as many survivors are financially destitute. They need to learn how to budget any money received. Setting goals may seem far-fetched but doing so is the ideal start for a financial makeover. She needs to order her credit report as steps may need to be taken to repair her credit, especially if she previously held credit jointly with her abuser.

Collaboration among state and Federal agencies, private sector foundations and nonprofit organizations provide financial assistance for survivors through transitional housing programs, transportation assistance, tax credits (EITC, child care), and individual development accounts (IDAs). These programs are vital to economic stability which is essential for recovery from domestic violence.

Businesses and individuals can also support survivors. Contributions to organizations that advocate against domestic violence are very much needed. Performing administrative tasks on a volunteer basis will help these organizations reduce overhead expenses. Fundraisers and clothing and/or toy drives that benefit domestic violence survivors and their children raises money and awareness in the community. Car donations can benefit the National Coalition against Domestic Violence. All proceeds are used to support their mission to end violence against women and children (http://www.ncadv.org/takeaction/DonateaCar.php).